Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.
My heart races as the cab driver pulls up to the International Terminal at Madrid. I’ve been here before, but this time, it’s different. This time, I’m not hopping on a short flight to London, or heading to the States to procure my Spanish Visa. This time, I’m going back to Thailand. The longest place I have called “home” in what seems like a lifetime.

I stand outside, looking at the cloudless blue sky and the barren hills which line the airport.

In 20 hours, my view will be a tropical paradise.

I’ve flown in and out of Bangkok more than any other airport in the world, and yet, on this occasion, I’m not flying to my moat-encircled city in the north of the country. I’m not returning to my Thai house. To the elephants. I’m heading to Thailand to speak at an event, and with that comes a tidal wave of raw emotions.

Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.

There is excitement pumping through my entire body as I clear customs, making light conversation with Spanish immigration when he tells me I am going to paradise for vacation.

A smile stretches across my entire face as I walk down the jetway to board my first of two flights which will eventually deliver me to Bangkok.

I’m restless. I’m tired. But, more than anything, I feel happy.

It’s been a long time since that sheer bliss has encompassed me. And now, it is widespread and, like any addiction, I can’t get enough.

Throughout my flights, I gently remind myself where I’m going: to where I grew up.

It’s funny. For someone who travels often, I don’t get that rush of eagerness or anticipation anymore. But, for this trip? It’s full-force.

When I land at BKK, the familiar scent of the country envelops me, welcoming me back.

It’s good to be here.

Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.

And then, I’m off in a cab again. This time on the other side of the world. In silence, I look out at the city as it goes from lush fields of green with spindly palm trees to wooden huts shrouded with canvas awnings to the high rises that define the capital.

The entire time en route to my hotel, I think

I think about the trips I have taken. The journeys. The arrivals home. So many times, I would head out and upon returning to my home, I would have a feeling of dread. Places which had worn out their welcome in my life. Places I longed to leave.

I never felt that way upon arriving to Thailand. Even on my worst days, landing in Thailand always put a smile on my face.

It’s things like this I often forget.

That happiness which comes from simple pleasures, like walking down a pock-marked sidewalk (if we can call it that) and the aromas which fill the air, a mix of diesel and burning and chili and Thai basil. Young Thai teens dressed smart, chatting in a language I can’t even pretend to grasp. The ease of simply sitting down on a child-sized plastic stool and sipping a fresh fruit shake. Or, meeting with friends from all over the world and catching up.Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.

It’s things like this, a wonder, a simpler life, an exotic existence, I took for granted.

Sometimes, you have to leave and return to realize how much love was there in the first place.

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Sometimes you don't know love until it's gone. A look at returning to Thailand, a former home, after being gone. A personal essay on loving a place and leaving.

10 comments

  1. A photographer once said to me that Thailand was the most “target rich,” country in the world – and for the many and varied images you see daily, I agree. However, there’s something else in the air for those that choose to look – and that’s what makes Thailand special.

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    1. Thank you! I will be returning to Thailand this summer, but not for an extended period. I will always love Thailand and it will always be a home for me, but it isn’t the place I need to be living right now.

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  2. I’ve not (yet) returned to Japan since I lived there (12 years ago now that I left) but I suspect I’d feel the same landing there. That was the place that changed me the most and I have such amazing memories of it. Though I know it would be utterly different if I ever lived there again!

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    1. It’s such a weird feeling, honestly. It’s like I want to bottle up the entire country and take it with me and open it on days when I really need some feel good vibes. Of course, it’s not the same for me as it was when I lived there (already working on that post!) but it was so incredible to be back and to remind myself just how damn lucky I was.

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  3. I loved this – as someone who has a ‘home away from home’ it’s so interesting how the airports and then the smells and then the scenery just envelops you and you’re back. Just like that. I love that feeling and love collecting places that make me feel like that!

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